Brooklyn Boro

Green projects aim to prevent sewage overflows in Brooklyn

February 12, 2015 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Two Trees Management's BAM South green roof project in Fort Greene is one of six winners in the city’s Green Infrastructure Grant program, which aims to soak up excess rain water and reduce sewer overflows. Rendering courtesy of Two Trees Management

DEP announces grant winners, 3 in Brooklyn

On Thursday, NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd announced that six stormwater management projects have been chosen to receive more than $3 million in funding through the Green Infrastructure Grant program.

Three of the grant winners are located in Brooklyn neighborhoods that have experienced flooding from stormwater overflows — Gowanus, Sunset Park and Fort Greene.

The grants are part of the city’s plan to soak up some of the rain that overwhelms the sewer system during storms, sending gushes of unpleasantness into basements and yards — and into bodies of water like the Gowanus Canal and the East River.

The overall strategy uses green approaches, like street trees and green roofs, to absorb excess rainwater. According to Riverkeeper.org, as little as one-twentieth of an inch of rain can overload the system.

* The Gowanus Arts Rooftop Farm will install a native plant garden and a large green roof vegetable garden to be enjoyed by the building’s tenants, including Spoke the Hub, which has a children’s nutrition and cooking program.  The project will manage more than 9,300 gallons of stormwater during each storm.

* The Salmar Building Roof Meadow in Sunset Park will contain plantings of native blue lupine, a perennial flower which flourishes in harsh climates with mediocre soils.  (It also attracts the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly.)  The project will manage 150,000 square feet, or almost 3.5 acres, of water-impervious area and 105,000 gallons of stormwater.

* Two Trees Management’s BAM South in Fort Greene / Downtown will incorporate a green roof on the third floor roof. The space is inaccessible, and the project will be cultivated for pollinators.  The project will manage 15,500 square feet and manage over 9,500 gallons of stormwater.

Other winning projects include the Madani Halal Rooftop Farm in Ozone Park, Queens, the Montefiore Moses Campus green roof project in the Bronx, and the Paradise on Earth Community Garden in the Bronx.

Once completed, the six projects announced on Thursday will prevent more than 6 million gallons of stormwater from entering the combined sewer system each year, according to DEP.

“By soaking up rain water these projects will help to reduce pollution in our local waterways, including the East River, Gowanus Canal and Jamaica Bay,” Lloyd said in a statement.

“Implementing green roofs and blue roofs clean our air and waterways alike, utilizing the natural power of plant life,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said. “Residents in Fort Greene, Gowanus, Sunset Park and beyond will benefit from these forward-thinking projects.”

Absorbing water at its source

In combined sewer system areas, storm water and sanitary sewage from toilets enter the same pipes on the way to the city’s water treatment plants. After a storm, the extra volume of water backs up and overflows into basements, yards and bodies of water.

There are roughly 400 “outflows” in New York City, where rain and sewage wastes mix, a DEP spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle. This causes pollution in bodies of water that don’t readily flush out, such as Coney Island Creek and the Gowanus Canal.

The Salmar Building Roof Meadow in Sunset Park. Rendering courtesy of DEP

The New York City Green Infrastructure Plan aims to reduce the amount of rain that makes its way into the sewers, through the use of green materials that soak it up at the source.

One major project, the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway Stormwater Management Plan, for example, would build water-absorbing infrastructure into the 14-mile Greenway path, soaking up half a billion gallons of rainwater during storms.

Last September, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced additional funding for DEP’s capital program, which calls for more than $2 billion for water main and sewer upgrades over the next four years. DEP plans to install hundreds of curbside gardens and high level storm sewers in neighborhoods surrounding frequently flooded areas like Gowanus.

Forum in Brooklyn

BP Adams is inviting residents to learn more about their sewers and other environmental issues at the next “City Speaks” forum, which features the DEP. The event is scheduled for March 11 at 6 p.m. at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

A representative from DEP will explain the agency’s programs and have people there to take down information about problems.

Story updated on Friday to reflect ownership of 20 Lafayette by Two Trees Management.